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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Signed in Silk: Introducing a Sacred Jewish Textile

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Saint Louis Art Museum / St. Louis / Art

When historic papal capes, vestments, and tiaras traveled to the Met Museum for the exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” the material richness and unimaginably fine stitchery seemed more a measure of worldly wealth, fit for a king, than spiritual elevation. Ah, the contradictions. Are these pieces not meant, after all, to honor the king of Heaven? The Saint Louis Art Museum recently acquired a splendid Italian Torah Ark Curtain from the 1700s, and it is now the celestial-blue centerpiece of the exhibition “Signed in Silk.” Consisting of silk, metallic thread, vellum, metal paillettes, cotton thread, velvet, metallic fringe, and linen backing, the curtain was made by a young women who lived along the East-West trade route, in the port city of Ancona. Consequently, the decorative motifs of many cultures find their way into this sacred cloth, which speaks more than just one language. —L.J.

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